Realm Makers – There & Back Again: The Authors Journey


I’m writing the first part of this from the Philly airport. I have just discovered that my flight is delayed. I have rebooked twice- rerouted- Travel can Be stressful- exhausting- and irritating.

My first thoughts go to my wife. I feel bad for her. She is what is on my mind. She is more kind, patient, beautiful, and supportive than I deserve. Without her, my journey as an author would be empty. And I’m glad I have her- To hold my hand, to lend an ear, to speak the words I need. For if, there is one thing I have learned this past week while at Realm Makers- It’s that an author’s journey never ends: Meaning- We all need our own Samwise Gamgee…

Realm Makers is more than just a writers conference. It is more than Geeky costumes, weird ideas, and late night Zombie Nerf Wars!!!

It’s a place to connect with a very active online community. A group that provides support, encouragement, and friendship while on the creative road. Where you are encouraged to embrace the gift God has given you. Every author needs that supportive cast: For the road is often littered with bumps, bruises, tears, and heartache. And when such accomplished authors like Thomas Locke, and NY Times Bestselling authors Tosca Lee, & Kathy Tyers speak of how they still deal with rejection or have recently been rejected themselves- you realize that creatives have a battle they must endure always.

“There is not a single day I sit down to write & I’m not scared to death.” -Tosca Lee (Click to tweet)

Thomas Locke reminded us this weekend that “You must learn to empty yourself. The greatest enemy of our souls is noise.”

I have a lot of noise in my life. From hundreds of emails, to the jealousy of others success, to the endless list of things to do, and an ever-ticking clock pounding in my ear.

Writing I have learned, is not a sprint. It is not even a marathon. Writing is an art that is expressed and nurtured through time. Too many times I think I need to finish now, or tomorrow, and I measure my success by what I have not done. “But, the outside world cannot be your only mark of success.” – Thomas Locke.

It was great seeing old friends: Josh, Jason, Nadine, Zac, and so many, many others. It was great to meet so many new faces. It was great to hear all the crazy story ideas everyone had. And I must admit there were a few times I thought: “I wish I had come up with that…”

I have returned home now. I will dive back into my shell, I will kiss my kids. I will love my wife. I will tell her what she means to me, and I will tell her I love her. I will tell her that without her, I would have collapsed on this road long ago.

My advice from what I took away from this weekend- Find the ones who love you. Who believe in you. Allow them to be a part of your creative life- For as Thomas Locke said:

“Your life is your page. Live your stories out…”

RELAX: You Are Not Alone… So Create Magic

I’ve said it before- My journey as a writer hasn’t quite gone as planned. I still remember the day my first short story went up on Amazon. I was so sure that the price incentive of .99 cents would be the thing that launched me up on the sales rank. Imagine my surprise when it barely moved. I was devastated. I was hurt. I thought- Seriously, I worked this hard on a 6,500-word short story and I’m not even going to break even…? What the heck…?

Did I quit…? No, I pressed on and wrote the novella My Friend Louie. I was so certain this little YA Horror Story would be the hit. Again, nothing happened… I asked myself a million questions. I could not understand what I was doing wrong. I remember sitting on my patio and just shaking my head. I felt God was leading me to write, to be a storyteller, to create with Him. However, I was not experiencing success on the level I wanted to.

That is when it hit me- I defined my career according to my terms and not God’s terms.

So, for two years I did a few things.

  • Studied the craft.
  • Made friends and connected with others in the industry
  • Practiced, Practiced, Practiced…

Those two stories are still up there for sale (But I have come so much further).

The point is. I have banged my head against the wall a hundred times. I have tossed in the towel every day. I have quit- Only to come back and bang away at the keys instead.

Maybe it’s my nature. I mean- I’ve gone from being a high school drop out to being a VP in a Marketing Firm. Maybe I don’t know how to quit. Maybe because on some level I know one day I’ll make a decent break through.

Maybe, Maybe, Maybe- Maybe I’ve realized that creating stories is the only thing I’m any good at.

Yes, I give up. Yes, I stare at a blank page and cuss the blinking cursor. Yes, at times I feel it is pointless. Yes, I feel disrespected. Yes, I feel my genre is laughed upon and underrepresented. Yes, I feel most publishers do not know jack about marketing. Yes, I have wanted to give up… Guess what- So has every other creative type I know.

We write because we are called. We write because it is who we are.

Remember- We create a special magic when we become one with the page, and the words, they are the wands…

So keep writing. Never look back. Someone, somewhere, needs to hear your story.

4 Things I’ve Learned After 11 Years of Working in Marketing

I’ve worked in Marketing for Eleven Years now. I’ve made mistakes- I’ve Fixed others Mistakes- And I’ve learned from Mistakes. However, one secret I know is this-

Marketing is not that hard.

It really isn’t. I think we have a tendency to make it harder than it really is. But the truth is: all you need are a few basic things-

One: A good product

Two: A passion for your product

Three: An ability to overcome the fear and share.

When most people ask me how much they should spend on marketing their books, products, etc. I tell them unless you have the money- You should only spend your time.

Sounds strange. But so many get ahead of themselves. Put your money in the production of the product FIRST. A well-edited book with a great cover will do more for you. If you have money left over, invest what you can in marketing.

Here are four things I’ve learned by being in upper management that anyone can do on any budget.

  1. Find what works for you and stick with it consistently.

Our company specializes in Direct Mail. It’s what most of you would call junk mail. But we have mastered it. Everything from creative design to programming mailing lists, to the production of envelopes, applications, brochures, etc is done in house. We even fold, insert, and sort all our mail down to a specific postal carrier route. We have mastered it by bringing everything in-house. We send out 3.5 Million pieces of mail each week. (YES- You read that right.) We know what works for us and we have a concept:

“How do we get you to open up the envelope without tricking you?”

  1. Your Fans / Clients / and Existing Customers- when satisfied will be your Number 1 point of future sales. (Click to Tweet This)

Here’s something. We market to our existing customers. We spend a lot of time and product development in marketing to the family members of existing customers who have been loyal for years. These products are some of our biggest sales. That’s not just us. Any large successful business does the same thing. Word of mouth is the biggest friend you can have. Find your fans- Build that email list- And hold on tight to them.

  1. Frequency- Frequency- Frequency:

Listen- Only Impulse Buyers buy the first time- 85% of the rest of the market need to see it more than once. Now please understand something. We don’t mail each customer every week. Sometimes it’s simply once a month. However, we hit them more than once. If you are a writer or entrepreneur don’t make every facebook, Tweet, or Instagram post about your book or product. After a while I’m going to be like: “Yeah, I get it.” But don’t ever go silent. Push it and don’t be afraid to push it.

  1. Test your control strategy against a test strategy:

We test everything. We have packages that have worked for years- But that doesn’t mean we stop brainstorming new ideas and concepts. Try one thing one day. The next week at the same time- Try something else. Test your results. Test your reach. Don’t shy away from data- It may not always tell the right story, but it can be eye-opening when it tells the same story consistently.  

Crying Children and Busted Lips: I Still Fear of Failing…

I have failed at a lot of things in life.

But you know what they say- Failures lead to success. Right…? If that’s the case I should be successful in more things than I currently am.

But one of my biggest fears is failing as a parent.

The other night our youngest, Bennett, was pushing his dump truck and slipped, fell, and busted his lip.

Blood was everywhere. On me. On him. On his shirt.

I panicked.

In a fit of anger I grabbed the Dump Truck and tossed it outside. I wasn’t sure what else to do.

So I did what every man does when he is clueless about the kids- I called my wife.

bennett

In the panic of the moment I didn’t even give her time to answer before I said: “Bennett’s bleeding, it’s everywhere, and I don’t know what to do, get here quick…” Then I just hung up. (Have I mentioned I have a tendency to be a little overdramatic).

Looking back now that it’s over I realize it wasn’t the smartest course of action. My wife with calm and grace even let me know that. At the end of the day it was only a busted lip and Bennett was back to his normal happy self not to long afterwards.

In Life we will fail. That’s a fact. Sometimes we fail because we aren’t ready, or we don’t have the full knowledge of what we face.

I like the way Jeff Goins put it in a recent Blog Post:

After his first mentor died, Luke Skywalker showed up to apprentice under Yoda. Luke thought he was hot stuff and cut his training short, which resulted in his hand getting cut off.

The point is this- We will fail. We will fail as parents, as spouses, in business, and as writers. It’s not the fact that we fail that matters most- It’s what we do afterwards and who we turn to for guidance.

First I turn to God. I turn to His word. Seek counsel in the depths of Scripture.

But I also turn to my wife: She is my best friend, and the one person I trust more than anyone. She may not have all the knowledge I need for every aspect of life- But she has the encouragement and provides the support.

Who do you turn to when you’ve hit rock bottom…?

Dragons, Orcs, & Unicorns- Are You in the Midst of a Difficult Quest?

Monday’s can often times make one feel as if they are looking down a long black tunnel with no light. It seems for many of us it’s the return to the daily grind, the mundane, and within a few hours we find ourselves longing for Friday.

I’ll admit- I’m like that. I can grow tired of the same old thing. I want to break free, find adventure, slay dragons, and climb dangerous Mountains. I want to go on a quest. And in those moments I often find myself living with regret wondering “What if” I had done this instead of that? Where would my life be?

forest

The truth is- Thoughts like that are the biggest hindrance to our lives. They cause us to question where God has placed us, to feel jealousy, to long for something that may not necessary be the correct plan or place for us. All the while- We fail to realize we are already on a quest. A great one, that’s being directed by The One.

This past year has been one of the most challenging times for my wife and me financially. We have been strapped short of cash as we pay off medical bills and try to readjust our life styles to account for a few items we need to pay off. In times like these I often look around and realize the things we can’t do or afford. And in those moments I found myself driven by jealousy, but in the end coming to a place of Thanksgiving.

-TWEET THIS-

It’s hard realizing you’re in the midst of a dark forest, & the hopelessness you feel is a part of the journey God has placed you on. CLICK TO TWEET

Whether that pain is caused by your own dumb mistakes or it’s simply the result of God shutting a door.

The truth is everyone one of us is on a quest. Sometimes the road seems long and hard with bumps along the way. Other times it feels simple and breezy. Regardless of the circumstances, I have to constantly remind myself to give Praise where praise belongs.

Every week I come across people who are bitter and angry about life. They feel they’ve been dealt a bad hand. As a result they go through each day and every minute trapped by the circumstances they refuse to try and overcome. It’s hard to do that- I’ve been there.

So this week-Ask God to reveal to you, what Quest are you currently on…? And are you thankful for the journey he has giving you….?